Stairway to Heaven

Once, I envisioned the sweetest stairway to heaven in a slow drag – dancing close, in a mutual dip, breath steaming up the room, singing lyrics into her ear in an intimate whisper, feeling her arms tighten around my shoulders in response, as the O’Jays sang the roadmap to paradise.

Now my first heavenly step tends to be when I find myself intimate with unexpected exhilaration.

Meeting someone whose silken intelligence humbles me and ignites curiosity. Accepting an invitation to collaborate in a way that allows me to infuse imagination into an otherwise linear admin experience. Observing a public display of generosity or service. Witnessing and savoring well-wrought creativity – onstage, at the open mic, in the movie house.

When I experience my daily living as if I were on a constant adventure, then I know I’m walking the stairway to heaven. When I smell fragrance from the stressful frictions of my life, when I feel supple despite the stresses in my life, when I keep my mind clear, my analyses sober, then I know I’m walking the stairway to heaven.

When I earn respect across borders, when I respect diligent ethical work by folks different from me, when I find the words of a timeless praise song, then I know I’m walking the stairway to heaven.

5th Street Sky

for Richard Fulton

in the 5th Street sky

white clouds drift over a bandstand of raining sighs
brighten after hours with storms proclaiming my my my
steaming away wrinkles in once sprawling lives

under the 5th Street sky

grown men cradle horns
float solos full of caffeine & whipped cream
sweeten melody with aroma of their high-hat wisdom
return time’s meaning for twitching family members
once slumped on sidewalks cackling with pain
now bowing into music with no shame

… sacred gone ground found …

summoning us into forgiveness
praise of dishonored angels
on the black & white walls

beneath 5th Street Dick’s baby blue ceiling

we find shelter from sticks & stones
bad days & broken bones
bottles & bubbles
sour drink & endless troubles

look how light falls on the humid faces turned up
as old timers tip toe into Harlem Dip & Central Avenue Stroll
stride past the curve of a sizzling piano
finger snaps shooting sparks through the air
old school medicine sipped & savored by hip hop heads
igniting language incinerating diction like lindy hopping dragonflies
homing in on a kaleidoscope of Monarch butterflies
to conjugate fantastic murals across dazzling 5th Street sky

who remembers the dawn when our cherished OG waved goodbye?
I will never forget the dawn when our cherished OG waved goodbye

In their song, the O’Jays ask in the fever of ecstasy: ‘don’t you wanna go, don’t you wanna go!’

And even in the midst of a slow drag I’m reminded to answer:

Yes yes yes, I do want to sense and trace the dimensions of life; yes yes yes, I will cultivate the aurora borealis within and around myself; yes yes yes, I will tap my self discipline, I will peep and avoid the humble’s promise of easy street, I will refuse the siren song of the political con; yes yes yes, I will network with subsonic harmonics of human living; and, yes yes yes, I will sync my future with a lifetime of precious memories.

Until, yes yes yes, I ring in harmony with my own exhilaration and my own Amazing Grace.

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “….  In the next few days, I came down with the worst case of what I now call the flu and the Blues. Fever. Sweats. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Breathlessness. Chest pains. Depression. Hallucinations.  Including one hallucination in which I saw myself as a helpless human pendulum swinging between the temperaments of my two older brothers, whom I’d always idolized for their radically different ways of being men. My oldest brother’s style? Think Old Faithful, the geyser, whose profanity-laced rants were sonic masterpieces as beautiful and riveting as Pete Townsend solos. My second oldest brother’s style? Think Agent 00 Soul…. I felt raging within my body these unhealthy extremes.  And my last hallucination plunged me into the healing sounds of hundreds of Black men singing from a core of wholeness, of vulnerability, of vision, to face whatever was ugly inside us, to celebrate an awesome faith in love and a faithful participation in love.  Listen … it’s no question, and I understood this even in my 20s, that great singing, great music, is an ineffable emotional aphrodisiac under any circumstances.  I am definitely not saying I had to lip synch Rose Royce (“…I’m going down …”) in order for pop ballads to become 4-minute mantras of metamorphoses.  But I have come to discern that this unbidden, flu-ridden, rite of passage was a genuine Round the Way Initiation.  I had a 20-something revelation that I could face what scared me, what scarred me, what stymied me, but only if I invested in my own genius and established my own elemental endowment.  I sensed I had discovered a sensual and regenerative operating system for the rest of my life, to deal with my drama, to activate my potential, to consolidate my triumphs .…”


In my early 20s, the Beach Boys turned me out! Me and my first love had gone to the Capital Center because we both dug Chicago, the opening act. We almost left the arena after Chicago blew us away with its muscular horn section. But as the song says, God only knows!

I was drifting on a contact high, the buzz of 20,000 fans, and my lover’s uncut groove, so I advocated that we give the corny California white boys a chance. We decided to listen to a couple of songs, and if they failed to meet the standards of two Chocolate City natives then we’d hat-up.

Have no idea which song they sang first, or the song list, but I swear the Beach Boys made believers out of two skeptics from SE, DC, who were steeped in the ferocious scope and depth and dimension of Black music.

But like Marvin sang: Come get to this!

I sang along fiercely with California Girls, I Get Around, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, and songs I didn’t even know I knew!

Alongside the most beautiful woman in the world, I glowed, she glowed, the whole joint glowed. 

I was so uplifted! I clapped till my hands ached. Stood up the whole damn show. We danced on-beat to the soaring, mesmerizing vocal overtones of the Beach Boys. We danced like two flower children from Topanga Canyon who made a stop in PG County Maryland on their way back home from Harlem’s Summer of Soul, with a side stop at Woodstock!


Everybody’s bioluminescence blazed in the house that night. Everybody was linked. We celebrated as “members of the same species.” We were inflamed by music and love and sincerity. Illuminated by song(s). Lit by lyric and voice and echo.

We could see each other listening to each other.

The light I shared with my first love didn’t keep us together, but it keeps us connected! Close my eyes and I can see her joyful face and I can feel my own joy reflected in my memory!

I mean, Good Vibrations for real!

Our glow remains palpable. Pure. Reminds me to sustain myself, to love myself more today than yesterday, and swing that love/keep it supple, ignite that love/keep it blazing, peep that love/stoke it till it’s ever ready to amaze.

Glow head on brother/bring that love on home.

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…. I’m trying to tell him that none of this will be easy. That it takes the hardest work of our lives to remain personally resilient, ethical, hopeful, artistic, and resourceful, especially in the face of challenges …. I tell him that we should look within ourselves at least as deeply as the think tanks, foundations, nonprofits, prison systems, and public intellectuals are looking at our lives. We should care more about our health and more about our futures. I just want to be an animating force in my grandson’s life, which he has to live for himself, of course. I want him to have a clue about those elemental focus areas of all our lives: education, health, family, work, living incomes, and criminal justice. But I want his tool kit to also include inspiration, imagination, creativity, metaphor, celebration, empathy, compassion, and improvisation.  When I think like an administrator (and not a grandfather), I ask how can we trust the cultivation these so-called ‘soft’ tools? What role could they play in our lives? How could we seamlessly weave and incorporate them into even administrative processes? How could ‘Inspiration Specs’ maintain the rigor necessary to execute an administrative mission or reach organizational goals? Talking and listening to Jelani, I am full with the understanding that there’s nothing soft about trusting intentions, knowing viscerally, concentrating deeply, loving simplicity, developing fortitude, building stamina, and accepting excitement and curiosity as catalysts for new angles, supple thinking, leaps of associations, and vocabularies of possibilities. But don’t wait until you’re in crisis, I’m trying to say…. Locate the sources of your power, your strengths, your vitality, your vision, and become a powerful circuit breaker to actual and potential violence by using your mind and imagination to inspire change within yourself and within your world. Create your own governing myths, craft your own life-saving metaphors, generate your own inspiring narratives for the future, and stitch what’s awesome into the quilt of ‘practical’ approaches necessary to ensure your healthiest future.…”

Sixth Séance [Circle Songs]

I speak in tongues. My pantomime speaks volumes. I dance with the many dimensions of meaning. With or without words, I’m a poet. I sing circle songs to the horizons offered by my birthday this month, which puts me two steps from 7.0 on the Richter Scale.

Cultivating all 5 senses, finding joy in the swirl of being myself, I’ve become a medium for my own Sixth Séance, quietly attuned, slipping beyond, sensing visitations, inhaling light, seeing with my eyes closed, a sightless bird feeling my sacred place in the pandemonium …..

I “shake within the very depth of my most interesting being,” to quote Larry Neal’s poem, Malcolm X—An Autobiography.

“… He plays so beautiful don’t you agree…”And here I’m dreaming that Philip Bailey is praising my solo instead of the sensual wailing by saxophonist Don Myrick on the song Reasons, captured by EWF’s Gratitude recording.

For my 68th, I want yall to clap your hands this evening, sing out for love, and sing a message, sing a message, sing a message to whoever needs you to be their fragrance, medicine, balm, or lifeline into fully realized substantiation!

Continental Shelf

Ring Shout on a continental shelf
timing of a geyser or amniotic sac
submerged stomp over the edge

here we go again
channeling panic at a runaway government
into thunder push up mountains
vexation transform individualism into a coalition’s
predilection to get down on the upthrust
knee-deep in subduction between executive order & constitution
tectonics in our testimony against annihilation
discussed with indifference of a knock-knock joke
air bubbles like underwater flares

who’s there?
we submit to earth’s governance of our Turns
but heirs to legacy of unbound memory
we deep weeping & honor bound to channel panic
into drum major’s flamboyant echolocation

read the popping bubbles of our insistence
sing echoes of our inspiration
hold hands with your ancestors
survive on their water-logged go head on
bet with evolution  

here we go again
reforming the circle of shoulders on shaky ground
stomp & reverse a whirlpool high enough
to saturate beams from Star Wars
consecration unleashed from the sky
contemplation underwater
we wake in sacrifices of emissaries carry ID at gunpoint
reshaping contour of our own historical wish
names bursting mouths
ricochet branding hips
consensus unlocking jaws  

Ring Shout on continental shelf
timing of geyser or amniotic sac
risking quick step on H 2 O

who’s there?
who’s there?

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…. All I’m asking is this: what is a happy Black man? All I’m getting is this: Raised eyebrows that sneer, Huh!? Heads shaken in doubt & resignation. As if it’s easier to look up and see Jesus hop-skotching barefoot down Pennsylvania Avenue than to ID a happy brother. I don’t mean happy-go-lucky, either. Clicking heels. Grinning. Eyes wide. Joking. Sacrificing like a slave. I don’t mean an update on minstrel do dah day. I mean happy. In stride. Flowing. Connected to an epic reason for living as unique as fingerprints, yet repping an inner fortitude and Fandango that catalyzes other folks, even when we’re facing and negotiating drama. Living. Laughing. Crying. Angry. Melancholy. Silly. Serious. Getting it done. Wrong decisions. Human. Whole enough to be grateful for breath, even when our mierda hits the fan, bank account’s running on fumes, no lover’s in the mix, and we need yoga classes to stretch what little income’s trickling through the pipeline. Resting, and relying, like elder Albert Murray says, on “that dynamic equilibrium, which is always precarious, but which makes for what we call happiness,” that unscripted sense of grace, which keeps us balanced on the tightrope, when we’re tempted to unhinge from accountability and plunge into depression, or get stuck on rage and indiscriminate anger, or brood until folks can smell it from our pores! Or is that Johnnie Walker Red, or weed, Camels, or prescription drugs? .…”

Back Seat Playlist

So, DJ Nina got her first car as the highlight of the 2022 Xmas season. In fact, 2022 meant first vehicles for my son’s daughters, who turned 18 and 17 last year. From LA, I’m wishing all three drivers safety on the roads of central and south Florida.

In the summer of 2022, Niece Nina was riding in the back seat of the rental car driven by her mother, my youngest sister. During their vacation in LA, Nina controlled the music that we listened to as we segued along SoCal’s freeways. We had fun listening to Michael Jackson songs I didn’t know, among so many other tunes.

Also, they generously treated me to playlists they’d created over the years. Special songs for different moods, for different seasons in their lives, sometimes very difficult seasons in their lives. They shared stories between a mother and daughter that I would never normally hear. It was a gift I’ll always cherish, especially as this year Nina completes her senior year in high school!

Over the years, DJs have contributed to my life’s soundtrack of joy ….

As a kid … I remember smiling at the sound of WOL’s Bob Terry, The Nighthawk, slurping Black Label beer up-close to the mic during commercials (at least it sounded like he was actually drinking!)

Actually, I’ll have to ask Dewey Hughes, legendary WOL producer and host – and one of my cultural Big Brothers – whether or not The Nighthawk, who mysteriously disappeared August 31, 1977, was simulating or actually downing brew!

Hughes teamed up with Petey Greene back in the day for an inspiring community affairs show. Before he opened the show for callers, Greene use to shout: “l’ll tell it to the hot; I’ll tell it to the cold; I’ll tell it to the young; I’ll tell it to the old. I don’t want no laughin’, I don’t want no cryin’, and most of all, no signifyin’ – Talk to Me!”

Callers who mumbled or hemmed and hawed? Greene hung up on them! Callers who tried to listen to themselves through their own radios? Greene hollered: “Turn your radio down!” And hung up on them if they didn’t comply fast enough! Dewey Hughes wound up co-producing Talk to Me, a film starring Don Cheadle as Petey Greene.

Then in college I was a classmate of Melvin Lindsey, the founding DJ of the Quiet Storm format which began on Howard University’s WHUR. Once, during the early days, before I graduated in ’77, I even sat in-studio with Melvin, who died in 1992 of AIDS complications, after rocketing to radio/BET fame with his stunningly cool voice and marvelously sultry playlists.    

From 1999-2004, I could still hear Melvin’s voice in my head, as I produced and hosted my own radio show: Inspiration House: VoiceMusic for Whole Living on KPFK-FM, Pacifica Radio’s LA station. Before starting, I apprenticed under a man named Angalifu as he produced his own poetry/music program. When he left LA, I took over the show, renamed it, and applied lessons I learned from Angalifu (and more subtly from Melvin).

Like my HU classmate, my goal was to create a seamless audio experience for listeners. So, first thing I did: I prohibited guest poets from announcing titles to their poems or telling ‘set-up’ stories before reading their poems. I also told guest poets: ‘Don’t create an advance ‘set-list’ for your show. Bring to the studio a range of your poems, then listen to the music I play and select poems that dance with the music. Let the music move you around!’

When the poets worked sincerely within that format, we struck gold! We generated an inspirational exchange of poetry, music, and dynamic silence. When we got the sonic recipe right, me and my guests created bona fide VoiceMusic and that hour from 10 pm to 11 pm zipped past!

Now I’m really smiling, thinking about Kristi Lomax, who produced and hosted Restless Soul, the dancefloor show that led into Inspiration House. She still produces the show One Track Mind for KPFK. When I turned 50, she DJ’d my birthday GoGo at Rock Rose Gallery, and I danced until 4 in the morning!

Now I’m really smiling about that night in the early 2000s, when KCRW’s Garth Trinidad allowed me to join him in the studio and program the evening, intermixed with a brotherly discussion about poetry, history, Donny Hathaway’s voice as essential medicine, and the cultural work that goes into sensitively programming a satisfying playlist. What a gift I was given by a legendary LA mixologist and broadcaster!

Now I’m really smiling about Garth’s KCRW colleague Liza Richardson, who included me in an early 1990s poetry/music reading at Vidiots in Santa Monica. I remember I chose Pharoah’s Creator Has a Master Plan for the poem I read. You know who else was on that bill? Viggo Mortensen! So, I can say I once shared a mic, lol, with a member of Frodo’s Fellowship of the Ring!

Oh but let me make room here for the sweet-and-sour, too.

Now when I listen to my beloved Spinners and Stylistics and the orchestral magic of the music produced by Philadelphia International Records, I am reminded over and over that we lost the awesome Thom Bell in 2022. Man, love don’t love nobody!  

But surely my most bittersweet playlist honors the late Greg Tate, whose analytical and stylistic genius was on display back in the 1970s, when we were students at Howard. The great singer Nailah Porter sent me the link to the “Sonic Syllabus for a Patternmaster: A mixtape curated by DJ Lynnée Denise and Elissa B. Moorhead with a musical bookend by dream hampton, hosted by the Pan African Space Station (South Africa).”

And South Africa is where I’ll land this praise song ignited by the head-bobbing backseat playlist mixed by DJ Niece Nina.
At the end of 2022, my OG ears awakened to music called Amapiano, “born in South Africa and raised around the world” that’s been called the “burgeoning dance genre reaching global heights in 2022.”

Here’s to taking it to the stage in 2023 and sweating it out on many a dance floor!

I stay ready to shake my body down to the ground!

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… Me and Isisara driving home from a concert at the Hollywood Bowl that featured Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Ruben Blades. Turn on KGFJ-AM, the Black-owned Los Angeles radio station that plays mostly oldies-but-goodies, or “dusties,” according to the station’s announcers. I’ve known Isisara since we both lived in Baltimore in the late ‘70s, and she’s one of several girlfriends whose friendships-without-sex  ground and extend my manhood. After the concert, we can barely sit still in the car, wishing that the salsa and musical etcetera buzzing in our heads and bodies would play forever. The DJ answers our prayers through the magic of late-night radio. He starts a powerful medley with “(La La) Means I Love You,” by the Delfonics. Before we know it, DJ Genie is granting our wishes with even more house party classics: “Tracks of My Tears,” by the Miracles, “Baby I’m for Real,” by the Originals, and, summing up sensationally, LaBelle’s “Isn’t It a Shame.” Driving from one red light to the next, me and Isisara can’t help but sing along loudly to each song. Neither one of us, truth be told, are really hitting too many notes. She’s chasing the lead singers of the men’s groups right up the scale until her falsetto croaks with enthusiasm. I’m right beside her echoing with mournful exaggeration Patti LaBelle’s “unh unh unh unh unh unh” in the middle of “Isn’t It a Shame.” … I notice we getting too close to my street where she’s parked her car. Oh no! This session will not be ending with us parallel parking! I take a right turn down a street into what Richard Pryor would no doubt call a “residential district.” I drive around that block twice. The recorded band plays on. I brazenly take unscripted turns down other dark side streets. Under the spell of Wilbur Hart of the Delfonics, Smokey the Miracle, and Isisara’s passionate lead singing, I even start braking for yellow lights hundreds of feet before coming to an intersection, so we can extend our off-key concert and revel in our sing-song friendship.…”

Sweet Mother of Bliss

As a recovering brooder, I’m working to break up residual congestion within myself. Old self-doubts. Generational regrets. Calcified disappointments.

As an urban boy who never even envisioned reaching his 60s, I’m marshalling my faculties (dreams, analytics, study) to claim a deeply personal sense of renaissance.

As a lover of brilliance and proverbs, solitude and the dance floor, I’m cultivating the commanding perspective that releases me from any limiting frameworks that block me from experiencing each day as both what it is and what it could be….

As a round-the-way virtuoso, I’m reminding myself to fulfill my potential the instant I awake and receive the amazing news that I’m alive again on Planet Earth, my sweet mother of bliss – all bliss I’ve ever had and all bliss I ever hope to attain.

I know you remember, the lead singer croons, when trying to love me wasn’t easy! But you stuck on in there with me…

Walt Whitman sang a song of himself. I find it more inspiring to sing a song to myself!

To croon a consecrated melody when the going gets rough. To envision myself bathed in the voice of a fellow virtuoso lead singer reminding me to hang on in there!

Then I remember to feel anchored (sweetened) by memory without nostalgia, grounded  on history (informed by history) without sentimentality, buoyed (oxygenated) by hope without naivety.

I again feel inspired by this timeline I’m on: Me, myself and I remember: we go a long way back, and a knowing laugh bubbles up in me, like a gospel singer hit mid-song by the spirit!

And I say to myself: What a beautiful thing to come by tens after the sweetness my life still has to offer me.

Over my right shoulder, I hear the five-part harmonies of a sacred roster of hip Black men I’ve known throughout my life, dudes who even walked me through what remains officially the worst moment of my life.

Over my left shoulder, I hear the kora … poised for when I need to pass on an uplifting story to another brother in need.

And then I say to myself: I’m looking for an echo of the bliss yet to come, swinging like Count Basie’s orchestra, generous as a griot’s praise, uplifting as a family reunion where my grandchildren ask me for advice, as hopeful as the vows we make before we say I do … love you … yes I do ….

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…. Hear the Kora play quietly in the background. I’m awake at 3 a.m. after a few hours of agitated sleep. I milk my memory to recall ways I’ve sheltered myself during other serrated seasons. I struggle to identify ways I found the energy and clarity to make decisions that contributed to positive turning points. I exercise my mind in the quiet of the night. I distill breathtaking moments. I struggle to create a string of psychic prayer beads. I finger them in my nervousness. I settle on one moment. It feeds me. Reveals itself as a sign: I am connected to more than despair and the worst surface of my ugliest situation….I’m on, like, a Drive About to the Giant Sequoia National Monument in Kern County, about 200 miles north of LA. Bank account was on life support. My nerves were frayed. Worry was my lover. I needed nature. I stopped along the way to dip my feet in the Kern River. Now I was on the final stretch toward the park. Mountain road. Mountain vistas. No other vehicles. CD playing Shirley Horn’s “A Time for Love.” I’m driving up this hill as the song begins to resolve in an amazing Johnny Mandel arrangement. Strings shimmer in crescendo, joined by Shirley Horn’s piano and Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet, just as I reach the crest of the hill. Oh my God! The view expands and the horizon is filled with rolling, cloud-covered hills. The music fades. I burst out laughing. I burst out crying. Turn off the player and continue my drive in grateful silence. Circumstances back home hadn’t changed. But I have. I’m a witness to a commanding serenity. I’m uplifted by a commanding serenity. I’m humbled by a commanding serenity. Go head on, brother, it promised. Maybe not triumph, just yet. But go head on and see what the end’s going to be ....”

Wind Me Up

Wind Me Up
Wind Me Up

I feel like bustin loose! Sky on my brow. Wind on my breath. Backbeat in every flash of insight. With each breath, scared only that I aint metabolizing each moment through my richest vitality.

Bloodstone called it a natural high, soaring effortlessly as love blossoms, as the hope of love blossoms.

I call it a self=knowing so ferocious, so delicious, I am fueled to ask: tell me what you know about it!

I feel so DELICIOUS – 44 years after publishing my first poem in the Black Scholar magazine in 1978, 13 years after starting the Black Man of Happiness Project in 2010.

I feel so FEROCIOUS – advocating for myself as a pioneer in the artistic and intellectual – and public – exploration of Black Joy and Happiness.

I’m churning, sifting, reflecting years of study, meditation, and observation. Radiating a sure, hard-earned joy with the force of maturity, confidence, and imagination.

I feel so RESILIENT – embodying my devotion to mastering the tools – the Inspiration Specs – of cultural innovation.

I refuse to allow my regrets to define me. I embrace the scars of my mistakes and failures and disappointments.

My very existence pulses to a deep internal backbeat. I’m not groping anymore. I’m a walking strategy, rhythmic, uncensored self-expressed repaving the sidewalks of my life.

Joyfully, it’s resonating for others as well. This year, from April-June 2023, I’ll be in residency at The Nicholson Project in my hometown of D.C.

So you know a GoGo beat got to start off this new year!

Welcome to Year 5 of Wreaking Happiness!

Five years of monthly meditations on joy from a D.C. public-school ambassador celebrating 50 years since graduating from Ballou Senior High.

Five years integrating and braiding my distinctive pain and pleasure into a diction of genuine emotions, spiritual fulfillment, and intimacy with the immaterial!

Five years of considered concentration from – say what!? – a Black man brazen on the tightrope, on the lifeline, of his happiness!

Five years seeking to keep the party grooving like one of Prince’s True Funk Soldiers!

Five years of offering a haven, finding a haven, in trust beyond my senses, even as I strive to explore ideas, mine and others, that humble and inspire us into contributing our distinctive ways to make beauty on Planet Earth – this mighty world of implacable

I’ll Always Be Your Haven

I’ll always be your haven
your portable Bobby Byrd

I’ll always be familiar path
your lean-to on high plateau
in pouring rain

when clouds soak your Sunday Best
when shearing winds part your hair

I’ll always be fleece
your down-beating hiding place
your worst side’s best spotlight

when trauma leaves you unprotected
you can break down with no game
curl your dramatic fidgeting
against my mentholated chest

when demons stir your fever

tightrope into lifeline
Homeboy into Walkboy
okie doke into substantiation

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD:

“Plus, being the D.C. Homeboy that I will always remain, The Black Man of Happiness just sounds right! I hope young men, especially, will find it liberating and invigorating that a grown-ass man speaks candidly about himself with confidence and vulnerability, with respect and tough-love, with honesty and hopefulness. Given what my experiences have taught me, I cannot Man Up without the fullest range of all of my emotions. I cannot wear a mask and arrive at an authentic masculinity of emotional honesty, personal vocabulary, and genuine whole living… I best honor the legacies of forefathers by
illuminating the life and lessons of one cultural worker, internalizing the timeless values of my elders, accepting their baton, and swaying enthusiastically to their hymns calling for the creation of beauty that will help heal the wounds of my brothers. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve earned my expertise. I’ve found my stride…..”